Emergency response time concerns in Matlacha

Posted at 9:22 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 08:15:31-05

Traffic is clogging up the road through Matlacha onto Pine Island, leaving many living in the area concerned for emergency response times.

The high levels of traffic are a good sign for businesses like Island Seafood Market.

"It's getting crowded and we're definitely doing some business!" Andy Fischer, the market's manager, said.

Fischer said the big business does have a catch:

"It's definitely a double-edged sword, because I don't mind having everyone come into the store, but it's not fun having to wait 30 minutes to go two miles," he said.

With one way on and one way off the island, the crowds make it hard to navigate.

What many are most worried about is emergency response times.

"It's a stand-still right now at some points of the day, so for them to get through, the bottlenecks are not letting them be able to pass, so something catastrophic could happen and they wouldn't be able to get to them in time," Fischer said.

A man living on Pine Island sent us a photo of the stand-still traffic with the same concern, so Four in Your Corner's Lisa Greenberg asked the Pine Island/Matlacha Fire District Deputy Chief about it.

"We do have lights, we do have sirens, but if people don't move out of the way, there's nothing we can do besides keep laying on the horn and getting the siren going," Deputy Chief Ben Mickuleit said.

He said that's one big reason behind the push to get a fourth fire station and put it in Matlacha, where response times are most concerning.

The average time it takes to get to an emergency on Matlacha is eleven minutes, compared to six minutes in Bokeelia and Saint James City.

"Seconds matter in the event of an emergency," Mickuleit said. "If you have an emergency and call 911, they expect us to be there in a timely manner. In order to do so, we need to build a fourth station to provide equal service throughout our district."

Mickuleit also said the district needs to replace their 17 year old fleet.

The district is putting a referendum on the March 16 election ballot asking voters living in the area to consider raising the millage cap to help pay for the new equipment and fourth fire station.